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Pro Bono Counsel Provide Vital Advocacy for FEMA Appeals and Insurance Claims

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

  • Organization: The Legal Aid Society

Months after Superstorm Sandy, homeowners and renters struggle to receive FEMA and insurance funds to repair their homes, replace essential possessions, and reclaim their lives.  FEMA continues to quantify damages arbitrarily and postpone award determinations for people with flood insurance.  Insurance companies, however, have been slow in sending out adjusters and processing claims, often denying coverage for damage and low-balling repair costs.  To address ongoing FEMA and insurance problems, The Legal Aid Society has partnered with a number of law firms to assist residents and small businesses in the Coney Island, Rockaway, Red Hook, Staten Island, and Lower Manhattan communities.  Tashi Lhewa, a staff attorney with the Society’s Queens Neighborhood office, has been playing a leadership role in the Society's disaster relief effort.

Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP made an early commitment to helping Superstorm Sandy survivors with appeals of FEMA denials.  Weil, which had led a similar effort following Hurricane Katrina, updated the firm’s training materials and conducted a nationally broadcast training hosted by the City Bar Justice Center and subsequently posted on Pro Bono Net's Superstorm Sandy page. The firm has established a weekly referral system with The Legal Aid Society to handle FEMA appeals on behalf of homeowners and tenants.  To date, Weil's US offices are providing pro bono counsel for 27 Legal Aid clients.

Jones Day, Kaswoitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman LLP, Kelly Drye LLP, Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP and Reed Smith LLP are also helping 17 Legal Aid clients with their flood and home owners insurance claims.  The firms’ attorneys review claims and insurance contracts and advocate with adjusters.  Their expertise supplements the range of legal services that the Society can provide to communities still feeling the effects of Sandy.

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